Liberia: Enough Is Enough! The People of Liberia Have Spoken!

Members of the House of Representative voting to amended the ArcelorMittal Liberia.

In the wake of ArcelorMittal’s vicious smear campaign directed against the Daily Observer, the Joint committee of the House of Representatives has seen through the lies and half-truths being sold to the public and has taken a definitive stance on the Agreement.

The House of Representatives has amended Mittal Steel’s proposed draft and removed those portions giving Mittal exclusive rights over key national assets, the Yekepa-Buchanan railway and the Port of Buchanan including infrastructure. Under the approved amended draft, those facilities have been returned to the sovereign control of Liberia.

The Daily Observer had all along kept the public informed of developments but, more than that, it had warned the public about ArcelorMittal Liberia’s true intention, which is to be a virtual state within a state.

This is why no efforts are being spared, according to sources, to take control of the railway and port, thereby denying the country the opportunity to derive additional revenue through the granting of user rights to other players. Informed sources have told this newspaper that the lure of “Brown Envelopes” allegedly promised by Mittal is proving too tempting to resist for many legislators.

 At least this was the dominant view in the public given the history of bribery of Legislators said to have been allegedly introduced under the reign of former President Sirleaf.   The media blitz launched by ArcelorMittal, which is underpinned by lies and half-truths, is intended to change the current narrative into one that portrays Mittal as a responsible player.

 And it goes as far as suggesting that its self-declared outstanding performance as the highest tax payer has earned plaudits from the Liberia Revenue Authority although, the Liberia Extractive Industry Transparency Initiative (LEITI) 2017/2018 report squarely contradicts such claim.

The report clearly states that ArcelorMittal paid US$220,728 and US$131,930 in 2016/2017 and 2017/2018 respectively. But for ArcelorMittal, it appears, truth does not matter. Its current misinformation campaign smells strongly of Hitler’s chief propagandist Paul Joseph Goebbels, who once said a “lie told a thousand times becomes the truth”.

Apparently this strategy has not worked for the people of Nimba, Bong and Grand Bassa Counties. They have become fed-up with ArcelorMittal’s lies and have taken matters into their own hands and even gone to court to seek redress.

But while the stance taken by the House of Representatives is indeed commendable, the Daily Observer must warn that there are some provisions that remain troubling.  The Confidentiality Clause, for example, is still retained in the agreement. Also of concern is the provision in the agreement restricting the right of the Liberian government to conduct an inspection without prior notice.

Having made the point, the Daily Observer is nonetheless happy about the outcome. We remain keenly aware that not all battles can be won and that is why it becomes important to choose which battles to fight. In this case, the surrender of key prized national assets to ArcelorMittal was, in the opinion of the Daily Observer, the key battle to fight. 

Having won that battle, at least partially, since the Senate is yet to concur, we shall move on to other obnoxious aspects of the agreement with the view to having those portions amended.

The near-unanimous passage of the amended agreement by the House of Representatives clearly indicates that the issues went to the heart of Liberians and the House of Representatives has heeded their call.    This is what the House Committee, among a host of other things, had to say, in a terse warning to all and sundry about the dangers of passing into law a lopsided and predatory concession agreement:

The committee warns that: 

  1. ArcelorMittal Liberia is a private institution which is subject to the sovereign control of the Liberian government by and through its law and regulations  as to this regards , all activities undertaken in Liberia by AML is subject to the Liberian jurisdiction 
  2. As a matter of law or legally, an endorsement of the proposed amendments will have a ripple-down effect  to the economic equilibrium of any approved infrastructure project; 
  3. If ArcelorMittal, a Liberian economic operator, is granted rights or Exclusive rights to the Railroad and the Port of Buchanan as discussed herein for its iron ore operations, that are not provided for in the Treaty, that preferential treatment will appear to violate the implementation agreement signed in the Treaty between the Republic of Liberia and the Republic of Guinea. 
  4. If other operators have been altered due to the proposed amendment by AML, that alteration would violate the terms of several articles such as Article 3.3 and 3.4 of the Treaty agreement signed; 
  5. The committee believes that Liberia stands to benefit more from its Railroad if it is not monopolized by any operator and that the entire Article 3, section (e) “User Access and Future expansion of the railroad is  an attempt to deny other operators and deprive the country of its economic benefits 

Indeed, and from all indications, Mittal’s misinformation campaign of lies and slander directed against the Daily Observer has fallen flat on its face. 

Enough is enough, the PEOPLE OF LIBERIA HAVE SPOKEN!